AVON LAKE - Ford Motor Co. will invest $900 million at the Ohio Assembly Plant and add 1500 jobs as part of a settlement with the United Autoworkers.

The investment is geared toward Ford building and introducing a new truck there in 2023. Ford will nearly double the size of its current workforce at the plant and bring extra work on the popular F150 Super Duty truck. The package comes with incentives from Jobs Ohio and its regional arm, Team NEO’s (Northeast Ohio) jobs creation program, Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said Sunday night.

The announcement came at the conclusion of the weeks-long and contentious UAW contract negotiations in Detroit last week. It is believed to be the most significant planned investment at Ohio Assembly since it opened in 1974. It also is the first new product introduced at the now 3.7 million square-foot plant on the 419-plus acre property along 650 Miller Road in nearly five years, Zilka said.

Overall, Ford rolled out a plan to invest more than $6 billion and provide investments to 19 plants across the United States over the next few years, according to UAW Ford Agreement Summary that was released on Friday.

The contract also proposes to keep or retain more than 8,500 jobs nationwide and award contract ratification bonuses to full-time seniority employees ($9,000) and temporary employees ($3,500), and reducing healthcare costs, according to the summary agreement.

Most of the plant and the property available to expand on at Ohio Assembly is in Avon Lake, meaning the majority of the jobs would be created in Avon Lake, Zilka said. Zilka said he wasn’t sure of the details of the incentive package or the specific location of Ford’s planned expansion.

"We’re ecstatic,” Zilka said. "This is really good news. We know the new product is going to be a truck, and this would create 1,500 or more jobs. This was kept quiet up until the end, and we have very little information at this time. We always like to stress that this could not have been done without the help of UAW Local 2000 and Jobs Ohio. We are extremely pleased."

Ohio Assembly currently produces the F-650/750 Medium Duty Trucks, F-350/450/550 Super Duty Chassis Cabs, E-Series Cutaways and stripped chassis.

Zilka said the medium duty trucks mostly are used for hauling during road construction and also chasis for the F350 and F450 trucks."

In the past, the plant played a role in producing the Econoline van, once the fastest-selling van in the U.S.

The city had no role at the negotiating table, but especially recognized the importance of Jobs Ohio and Team NEO in helping to lure the jobs to Ohio Assembly.

Zilka said that the income tax generated from the plant this year is on track to reach $2 million. Avon Lake schools also gets a portion of taxes from the plant.

As recent as six years ago, Ohio Assembly had just 450 workers, but with new lines added at the plant, that later increased the number of workers to about 1,400, according to Zilka.

Ohio Assembly currently has about 1,800 workers, 1,600 in assembly that are in the bargaining unit and about 200 non-bargaining unit office workers, Zilka said.

In fact, a survey recently taken at Ohio Assembly showed that 60 workers at the plant lived in Avon Lake, and the majority of the workers live in western Lorain County, according to Zilka.

Ted Esborn, economic development director for Avon Lake for the last three years, said the city is waiting for details, but that UAW Local 2000 seems to be aggressive in strategizing and fighting for new investment.

“They are the ones who do the lion’s share of the negotiating with Ford, and we support them,” Esborn said. “We knew there could be a new product coming, but we didn’t know what it could be. Ohio Assembly is a truck plant, and we knew it would be something along that product line.”

William Samples, executive board president of UAW Local 2000 and Jonathan Bridges, director of the automotive division for Jobs Ohio, did not return phone calls for comment.

“This investment will be great for the community. It also will create a lot of jobs in the skilled trades as construction moves forward on this project,” Zilka added. “That will generate more income tax revenue, but the amount is an unknown at this time. Plus, a $900 million investment isn’t chump change.”

Esborn’s sentiments echoed Zilka's.

"As a city, we try to find ways to support all of our businesses, and hope that our support can facilitate growth," Esborn said. "But the news from Ford and the UAW is tremendous good fortune for the city. We are fortunate and grateful."

Contact this reporter at mailto:msakal@westlifenews.cm, or 440-871-5797

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